Arguing with conservatives about fair taxes

Some conservative-leaning coworkers were saying yesterday that the problem with America is that 47% of people don’t pay taxes. Echoing Mitt Romney, my coworkers said democracy leads to a situation in which people vote for candidates who promise them public money.

I replied: I agree we have too much socialism and redistribution of wealth: socialism for the rich.  I mentioned the increasing concentration of wealth and the bailouts of banks like Goldman Sachs.  Then I walked away, not wanting to continue the discussion. Usually I avoid talking politics at work, because it can lead to trouble.

Later I couldn’t resist following up with an email.  Quoting Fact-checking Romney’s “47 percent” comment, I wrote: “According to 2008 data from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, eight of the top 10 states with the lowest income tax liability are Republican-leaning states. The other two are Florida, a battleground state, and New Mexico, which CBS News rates as likely Obama territory.” And “The same data shows, however, that nearly two-thirds of households that paid no income tax did pay payroll taxes. And most people also pay some combination of state, local, sales, gas and property taxes.”

They said, “You are mixing two things. We’re talking about income taxes.” I said, it’s important to mix all the facts and not exclude the whole picture.

I also sent them these links:

They replied, quoting The rich do not pay the most taxes, they pay ALL the taxes. “Buried inside a Congressional Budget Office report this week was this nugget: when it comes to individual income taxes, the top 40 percent of wage earners in America pay 106 percent of the taxes. The bottom 40 percent…pay negative 9 percent.”

Christopher Follmer pointed me to the article No, The Rich Do Not Pay ‘All The Taxes’ which says:

But “taxes” are not the same thing as “federal personal income taxes.” The federal personal income tax only made up 28% of all U.S. government tax collections in 2012. Federal, state and local governments collected $4 trillion in taxes last year; just $1.1 trillion of that was federal personal income tax. . .. Here’s a chart I made earlier this year showing the distribution of the tax burden when you add all the taxes together. Earners in the top 1% pay about 43% of their incomes in tax. People in the middle quintile pay 25%. The poorest fifth pays 13%.

Importantly, the article also points out, “that top 40% group includes single people with incomes as low as $51,100 and couples with incomes of $72,300. Those people aren’t poor but it’s a real stretch to say they’re rich.”

Bernie Sanders and Warren Buffet have spoken on this: the obscenity that hedge fund managers pay a lower percent of their income in taxes than do many middle class people, due to low capital gains taxes. As Chad Lupkes said, “People making obscene amounts of money can get away with paying 15% or lower, giving them billions of dollars that they DO NOTHING WITH while their fellow citizens are starving on the streets.”

Anyway, it seems that conservatives have their facts and liberals have their facts.  They say that facts rarely sway peoples’ opinions anyway.

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